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Are There Other Gods?

Discussion in 'Exploring Christianity' started by Occams Barber, Oct 21, 2021.

  1. Occams Barber

    Occams Barber Newbie Supporter

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    Exodus 20:3; ‘You shall have no other gods before me”

    As someone who has never been a Christian I have always been under the impression that Christians believed that there was no other god apart from the Christian God. I was therefore surprised when I came across this article which suggests the idea that other gods exist ‘pervades’ the Bible. I’ve appended a relevant extract from the article at the bottom of this post so you can see the author’s argument. Based on this article, it would seem that the Bible clearly asserts the existence of ‘other gods’.

    Over several years on CF I’ve come across different interpretations on the question of ‘other gods’:
    • There are no other gods.
    • There are other gods but they are really manifestations of ‘evil’ posing as gods, e.g., demons or fallen angels.
    • There are (or perhaps, were) other gods but they are significantly lesser beings when compared with the Christian God.
    This range of Christian views is also complicated by the fact that a majority of people, now and in the past, are/were fervent believers in their own god(s).

    Is there a cohesive Christian view on the existence and nature of any alternative deities?

    Can Christianity explain why other believers believe in their gods?

    OB


    Article Extract

    LInk: The Bible’s Many Gods | Gerald McDermott | First Things

    The idea that there are other “gods” who exist as real supernatural beings, albeit infinitely inferior to the only Creator and Redeemer, pervades the Bible. The Psalms fairly explode with evidence. “There is none like you among the gods, O Lord” (86:8); “For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be revered above all gods” (96:4); “Our Lord is above all gods” (135:5); “Ascribe to Yahweh, [you] gods, ascribe to Yahweh glory and strength” (29:1, my trans.); “He is exalted above all gods” (97:7); “For Yahweh is a great god, and a great king above all gods” (95:3, my trans.). And so on.

    But it’s not just the Psalms. In Exodus Yahweh predicts that he will execute judgments “on all the gods of Egypt” (12:12). The author of Numbers then declares that that is indeed what happened: “Yahweh executed judgments against their gods” (33:4). There is no hint that Yahweh is the only God. Instead it is clearly implied that Egypt has her own gods, and Yahweh will defeat them.

    When Yahweh gives his people the Ten Commandments, the first commandment implies the existence of other gods: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exod. 20:3; see also Deut. 5:7). In Exodus 23:32–33 Israel is told not to covenant with or worship other gods; there is no suggestion that the gods of Israel’s neighbors do not exist.


    (Gerald McDermott is the Jordan-Trexler Professor of Religion at Roanoke College. He is the co-author of A Trinitarian Theology of Religions (forthcoming from Oxford University Press).)
     
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  2. Not David

    Not David Orthodox Improving on the Faith

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    They can be referred to either angels or demons "All the gods of the pagans are demons." Psalm 95:5
     
  3. HTacianas

    HTacianas Well-Known Member

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    You find throughout the bible the mention of "other gods" in the sense that people worship "other gods". Within Christianity there are two explanations for it. One is that those gods do not exist but are simply the imaginations of those worshipping them, and the other is that it is the worship of angels or demons. One example of the imagination of some other god is the creating of an idol. Mention is made of people carving an image and claiming that it is a god.
     
  4. Sketcher

    Sketcher Born Imperishable

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    • The God of the Bible is the one true God.
    • Hence there are no other gods in reality.
    • As a cultural concept in the minds of the Israelites, other gods existed, hence the language of the OT that may seem to acknowledge them as gods. God had to communicate with a primitive people that understood people around them had multiple gods to worship.
    • There are spiritual entities known as demons that have powers.
    • As such, it is within their power to perform works that one would attribute to one or more gods.
    • Whether the demons *are* those referred to as gods, or whether they are scheming to make it look like these gods exist, isn't really defined. In other words, we don't know of Molech in the OT was a literal demon, or if demons created the fiction of Molech to get people to kill their own babies in sacrifice to him. Either way, worshipping Molech and especially making child sacrifices to Molech was a horrible thing to do, and no one should do anything of the sort.
     
  5. Quid est Veritas?

    Quid est Veritas? In Memoriam to CS Lewis

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    Well, yes. Ephesians 6:12 speaks about the Powers of the air for instance. The Bible is very clear that there is one Creator, one God, but recognises that people worship other gods that they either make themselves or are representatives of lesser spiritual forces.
     
  6. Abaxvahl

    Abaxvahl Well-Known Member

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    Yes there are many other deities, as St. Paul says "there are many gods and many lords."

    Those who are called gods/God in Scripture are:

    1) The souls of dead humans (Samuel when raised as a spirit is said to be "elohim/god rising out of the ground") .
    2) A human being serving in a position of judgment or something over another (Moses is said to be "as god" to Aaron and judges are called gods).
    3) Divinized human beings (and in Christian theology the Saints have often just been called gods, all the Elect will become this).
    4) Pure spirits (not just evil, but also good ones that serve God, this is what most people think of "the gods," like pagan pantheons) who rule in the world (St. Paul refers to the evil ones of this category when he says "our fight is against powers in high places").
    5) The Lord God Himself, Holy Trinity, supreme over all which is why He says "there are none beside me" or "there are none like me" frequently.

    The nature of #4 is what is said: pure spirit. They have an intellect and will but no body, in the role of messenger we often call them "angels" when good, although again that is a role and not a nature.

    One of the reasons provided in Scripture for why others believe in these deities (and as a side-note I am excluding other monotheists like Jews and Muslims, for my Church says they, although with a flawed idea of God, do in fact worship #5 with us, I am speaking of polytheists who do not worship #5 with us) is that God permitted it as a punishment of them (those people, the majority of nations) for rebellion against Him saying:

    "When the Most High divided the nations, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the nations according to the number of the angels of God. And his people Jacob became the portion of the Lord, Israel was the line of his inheritance... They [Israel, God's own] provoked me to anger with strange gods; with their abominations they bitterly angered me. They sacrificed to devils, and not to God; to gods whom they knew not: new and fresh gods came in, whom their fathers knew not."

    The division of nations happened at Babel, the bounds and number of the "angels of God" (in other versions called sons of God, this refers to #4) are why others were under the dominion of this, for as a penalty God subjected those nations under these beings. But God took Israel to be the nation He would personally manage. This is one of the reasons beyond human sin given for why it is the case.

    There is no basis whatsoever for denying the reality of these beings in Christian theology.
     
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2021
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  7. Oscarr

    Oscarr Senior Veteran Supporter

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    The Scripture says"
    "I am the LORD, and there is no other; there is no God but Me. I will equip you for battle, though you have not known Me, 6so that all may know, from where the sun rises to where it sets, that there is none but Me; I am the LORD, and there is no other.…" (Isaiah 45:5-6).
    "You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one" (Isaiah 44:8).

    So, if God doesn't know of any other god, then it is certain that there ain't any.
     
  8. Tom 1

    Tom 1 Optimistic sceptic Supporter

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    It's hard to say if the references acknowledge actual gods, or the idea that there other gods. Context seems to favour the second, e.g. Elijah refers to Baal as a 'god' but then sets up an 'ok, so where is he?' test that Baal fails. Baal is recognised by the influence on those who believe he exists, but not by his actual existence. With reference to Egyptian gods, the passages where they might be expected to make some kind of showing reference magicians instead. The actual gods seem to fall under the general category of idols and images rather than having some independent existence.
     
  9. JesusTheMessiah

    JesusTheMessiah Anytime Rapture, Futurist, Dispensationalist

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    I think the bible is pretty clear on this subject:

    „For this is what the Lord says— he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited— he says: “I am the Lord, and there is no other.
    Declare what is to be, present it— let them take counsel together. Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past? Was it not I, the Lord? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me.“
    ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭45:18, 21‬

    When the Bible talks about other gods, it’s not affirming that they exist, but just stating a fact, that somebody believes they exist - which is false, because there is only one God. Believing that the sun is a god doesn’t change anything, it still remains just a star.

    Be blessed,
    Manno
     
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2021
  10. Llleopard

    Llleopard Active Member

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    I don't think you will find agreements between Christians on this or most other topics!. But you will find a very interesting read in The Unseen Realm by Michael Heiser. He lays out very clearly your number 3 view that Yahweh is the God over all other gods, as He created them. They are real, and form an integral part of the spiritual realm. Give it a read.
     
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  11. ewq1938

    ewq1938 Wise 2have humblepride but not PridefulHumbleness. Staff Member Supervisor Supporter

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    There are many "gods" but they are all false gods. There is only one actual God.

    Deu 4:27 And the LORD shall scatter you among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the LORD shall lead you.
    Deu 4:28 And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men's hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell.

    In other words, made up, invented, fake gods.
     
  12. Br4nd0n

    Br4nd0n New Member

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    Yes

    Edit. His podcast is really great also - the naked bible podcast
     
  13. Pavel Mosko

    Pavel Mosko Arch-Dude of the Apostolic Supporter

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    Your question is super easy to answer. The answer is YES. The Old Testament uses the term Elohim in many places. This word is translated as God or a god. It basically denotes any spirit (in the context of ancient religions of the day that have things like Animism, ancestor worship etc. where spirits can be invoked, supplicated, pacified etc.). In the Judeo-Christian context it is all spirits from the Supreme God to angels, demons, fallen angels etc. But is used differently in various places, as a title for the supreme God, and a generic word for spirit, god of another country etc.


    In the aftermath of the Tower of Babel incident, God divides up the nations and assigns the different nations an angel guardian to look after them. Some of these angels, rather than being care takers of humanity eventually wanted worship for themselves and became the leaders of the different polytheistic nations etc. But if your really interested in this stuff, I would recommend you listen to Semanticist / Bible scholar who is an expert on this stuff, including ancient near east cultures and so on.

     
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2021
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  14. timf

    timf Regular Member

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    The injunction against other "gods" may be more accurately described as an injunction against treating anything other than God as a god.

    The "gods" referred to can be imaginary, demonic, or even other people. One might even include things like worshiping the earth or even space aliens.

    In the Old Testament the nation of Israel was supposed to avoid all entanglements with the various ways people worship something other than God.

    In the New Testament, Christians are exhorted to avoid anything that might even lend credence to an idolatress act that might influence a weaker brother (perhaps one who has recently left a pagan religion)

    Rom 14:21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.
     
  15. topher694

    topher694 Go Turtle!

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    To me this seems to hinge entirely on how one defines a "god". And I've seen no definitions here.

    By the Biblical definition of God (all-knowing, all-powerful, ect...), logically only one God can exist.
     
  16. PloverWing

    PloverWing Episcopalian

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    If you put a bunch of Christians in a room and ask them the question, will they agree? No, of course not. :)

    My understanding, informed by multiple books and articles that I've read, is that early Israel was henotheistic, gradually moving to monotheism over time, and that this is reflected in their writings.

    Speaking for myself now, I'd say that the reason other believers believe in their gods is that the nature of the divine is really difficult to figure out, and people make mistakes. People encounter the divine in many places, and so might make the mistake of believing the divine to be many, instead of one. People encounter amazing things created by God, like the sun or the sea, or the universe itself, and see the universe as divine instead of locating divinity in the universe's creator. As for other monotheists, like Jews and Muslims -- we agree that there is only the one God, creator of all things; our disagreement is about other stuff.
     
  17. Petros2015

    Petros2015 Well-Known Member

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    I suppose the answer depends on what is the definition of a God?

    Is it something that can change a circumstance when appealed to, or something that can change the appealer when appealed to? There might be things which could grant, say, wisdom about a particular situation. Or change a particular circumstance. But the Christian God starts by saying "Let there be Light". “God is light,” says 1 John 1:5, “and in him is no darkness at all.”

    So, "Let there be Light" from this particular God is I suppose in some metaphysical sense a little like saying

    "Let there be Me".

    I'm a Neil Gaiman fan, and a lot of his stories revolve around the interaction of mythos (the lesser "Gods" and the Endless) and humanity and I do wonder sometimes. I think something like that might not be beyond the bounds of Creation. But it's not my business to seek it out (I'm forbidden from it), and even in Gaiman's stories, it doesn't always end well for those that do (or more often, those who accidentally cross paths with them). I can't speak for other Gods, I can only speak for the one who spoke to me, and that was Christ before the Cross. But, if any others do, I'll let you know.

    upload_2021-10-21_12-20-54.png

    Personally, I just don't see evidence of anything else in the Let there be Light category; a second Creator. I'm not sure it would make sense. I suppose to me a God would be "That which can not be resisted". It's fairly easy to find things like that, but after one goes up the chain further and further, you (or I at least) eventually find what I would consider to be God. Who says basically the buck stops here.

    In Isaiah 44

    8 Do not fear, nor be afraid;
    Have I not told you from that time, and declared it?
    You are My witnesses.
    Is there a God besides Me?
    Indeed there is no other Rock;
    I know not one.’ ”


    Were there other Gods, one who said "Let there be Light" and another who said "Let there be Gravity" and another who said "Let there be Time" and another who said "Let there be Life"? It seems unlikely to me. Though, "Wisdom" is spoken of poetically in the Proverbs (8). But even in this (which I *think* is to be taken more poetically than literally), she is a Created being. Not an independent Creator herself, but working beside Him and in concert with Him.

    I'm really not sure. Maybe one day we'll get to meet.

    22 The Lord created me at the beginning of his work,
    the first of his acts of long ago.
    23 Ages ago I was set up,
    at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
    24 When there were no depths I was brought forth,
    when there were no springs abounding with water.
    25 Before the mountains had been shaped,
    before the hills, I was brought forth—
    26 when he had not yet made earth and fields,
    or the world’s first bits of soil.
    27 When he established the heavens, I was there,
    when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
    28 when he made firm the skies above,
    when he established the fountains of the deep,
    29 when he assigned to the sea its limit,
    so that the waters might not transgress his command,
    when he marked out the foundations of the earth, 30
    then I was beside him, like a master worker;
    and I was daily his delight,
    rejoicing before him always,


    And in the Genesis creation story

    And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air


    Which is interpreted as a pre-notion or foreshadowing of the Trinity concept later revealed. But it does support a plurality, or perhaps God doing something in concert with others. (the Trinity from the Christian perspective, or perhaps 'the host of spirit").

    I would have to say, as a Christian, that the Heavenly Father, while remaining God, does appear to have a fondness for delegation. But then again, what Dad does not put his own sons to work for him? Or what King does not give his own subjects commands?
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2021
  18. ViaCrucis

    ViaCrucis Evangelical Catholic of the Augsburg Confession

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    The short answer is that, no, we don't believe in the existence of any other gods. And the confession of there being only one God is a current that runs through the Bible.

    In fact, one of the most prevalent themes in the Bible, through its many varied and diverse books, is the problem of idolatry. Not merely the literal worship of idols, or of gods other than YHWH; but also false worship in a more general sense. Though that's a much, much bigger topic that would deserve its own discussion.

    However, the Bible also paints us a picture of an emerging monotheism, rather than a purely "fiat" monotheism.

    That the Israelite worship of YHWH evolved and matured with time, from something that looks closer to henotheism toward the more mature monotheism of later Judaism.

    This is actually fairly consistent with a Christian understanding of what might be called "revelatory history"--the ongoing history of God's interaction with Israel. A history that we see moving toward a definite goal: Jesus Christ.

    After all, in Christianity God's capital-'R' Revelation of Himself isn't a book or books, but the flesh-and-blood human being, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus is the Word of God. In Christianity the Bible is the authoritative and divinely inspired witness to Jesus. We divide the Bible between the two testaments, the two witnesses, who together bear witness to Jesus and God's revelation in Jesus.

    The Christian reads the Bible, with a hindsight afforded by viewing it through Jesus, and so we see God interacting with Israel, drawing, pulling, calling, speaking. But we don't see Israel getting it. Israel sometimes gets it, but then things go sideways big time. We see the same kind of thing in the Gospels with Jesus' disciples, Jesus keeps teaching them and telling them things, but they keep missing the point. Jesus at one point tells them plainly that He must, as the Christ, suffer, die, and be raised up. And yet, right to the very end, when crap hits the fan, they're all befuddled by the arrest, trial, and execution of their Rabbi. Jesus' resurrection shocks them, in fact they simply refuse to believe it. Most famously with St. Thomas.

    So there is always this sense when we read parts of the Bible that the people we are reading about are always struggling with God. And there is a conflict between God, as God is, versus our ideas about God.

    Our idols keep getting in the way. We keep wanting to melt down gold, as it were, and make our golden calves to worship. We keep wanting to keep God "way up there" safe and away from us to be worshiped from afar through our various idols and idolatries; and God keeps kicking down the door, saying, "I AM that I AM".

    And it is in Jesus that we finally see God face-to-face. The unknown and unknowable "Hidden" God tears down the veil, and makes Himself known.

    "'No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.'

    Philip said to Him, 'Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.' Jesus said to him, 'Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know Me, Philip? Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, "Show us the Father"? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me?'
    " - John 14:6b-10a

    All our gods are false. All of them.

    The real God is not a "god" at all. He's more than that, He's God.

    I am unsure if that final statement makes much sense, I'm trying to convey something that I think is difficult to convey properly.

    All of our ideas about what "god-ness" is, means, and entails--it's all wrong. The way God shows Himself to be God is not something that be grasped by thinking about "divinity" and all our preconceived ideas of what that means; but instead God shows Himself to be God in Jesus, in Jesus' love, in Jesus' suffering, in His cross.

    -CryptoLutheran
     
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  19. TheWhat?

    TheWhat? Ate all the treats

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    I read the monolatrist statements as-is. There is a way to reconcile the apparent contradiction -- angels, powers, dominions, etc., fell, rebelled or what have you, and these attempt to exalt themselves, to be regarded as gods, a bit like humans.

    When scripture is speaking literally about other gods, it's not intended to confuse us, or to be poetic. It's constructing a world view that includes the surrounding nations.
     
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2021
  20. James_Lai

    James_Lai Well-Known Member

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    Very interesting
     
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